Friday, December 13, 2002
1996 - Florida St. 31, Notre Dame 26
By Dan O'Sullivan
In the final Orange Bowl game held in the Orange Bowl, Florida State and Notre Dame staged a thriller that sent the historic venue out in style.
Though No. 6 Notre Dame (9-2) came to Miami riding a six-game winning streak, it lacked two of its biggest offensive guns. Quarterback Ron Powlus had suffered a season-ending injury in November, while team-leading rusher Randy Kinder had been suspended for disciplinary reasons.
No. 7 Florida State (9-2), meanwhile, entered the game nursing problems of its own. After spending 10 weeks at No. 1 and another at No. 2, an October loss to Virginia dropped the Seminoles out of national-championship contention. Their regular season later ended on a down note in a 35-24 loss to arch-rival Florida.
Starting in place of Powlus, Notre Dame's Tom Krug got his team off to a quick start by hitting split end Derrick Mayes for a first-quarter 39-yard touchdown pass. Florida State quarterback Danny Kanell answered with an 81-yard touchdown drive that took all of 2:16 to execute. The offensive shootout was on.
As the third quarter began, the Seminoles held a 14-10 edge. Early in the third, the Irish took over at their 45-yard line and trudged to the FSU 33 in nine plays. Mayes then made a spectacular catch for a touchdown, outleaping defender Samari Rolle.
Early in the final period, a possible goat-of-the-game candidate emerged. Pinned on the FSU 1 after a 44-yard Hunter Smith punt, Kanell stepped out of bounds while rolling out to pass in the end zone. The safety gave the Irish a 19-14 advantage. Robert Farmer sparked Notre Dame's ensuing drive with a 51-yard run that set up a 5-yard touchdown pass from Krug to Pete Chryplewicz.
Now trailing 26-14 with just 11 minutes remaining, things looked bleak for the Seminoles. Then Kanell took over, leading his team on a five-play, 73-yard scoring drive. The touchdown came on an 11-yard pass to E.G. Green, and the point-after cut the Irish lead to 26-21.
Notre Dame went three-and-out on its next series, and FSU's Dee Feaster returned the subsequent punt to the ND 30. The Irish defense stood strong for a while, forcing the Seminoles into a fourth-and-5 situation. But Kanell fought back by connecting with Green on a 22-yard pass to the ND 3, and on second down Kanell and Cooper hooked up once again for a score. A Kanell-to-Cooper two-point conversion gave Florida State a 29-26 lead with 6:09 on the clock.
The ND offense sputtered on its next two possessions, relinquishing the ball on a fumble and taking a safety when Krug was called for intentional grounding in his end zone. The Seminoles then ran out the clock to secure the 31-26 victory.
While Kanell shined on 20-of-32 passing for 290 yards and four touchdowns, the game MVP honors went to Cooper, whose three touchdown receptions set an Orange Bowl record. The win was Florida State's 11th straight in a bowl game - an NCAA record. The streak would end the next year, when Florida dished out a 52-20 beating in the Sugar Bowl.